January 30, 2020 / 12:22 PM / in 6 months

Lazard looks to brighter 2020 after bruising dealmaking slowdown

FILE PHOTO: The logo and trading information for Lazard Ltd appear on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investment bank Lazard Ltd (LAZ.N) said on Thursday net profit in 2019 slumped by 44% year on year, as last year’s slowdown in corporate dealmaking weighed on earnings, but the company said fourth-quarter activity gave grounds for optimism in 2020.

The drop came as global banking revenue for mergers and acquisitions (M&A), one of Lazard’s main revenue drivers, fell 10% in 2019 to $25.8 billion, according to Dealogic. Lazard ranked seventh in global bank M&A last year, up from eighth in 2018, Dealogic league table data showed.

Operating revenue from Lazard’s financial advisory business, its biggest source of earnings, fell 10% in 2019 to $1.36 billion. The decline slowed in the fourth quarter to 1% year on year.

“We’ve got strong momentum in our business going into 2020. 2020 feels like a better start for us than 2019, which is good, on both sides of the business,” Lazard Chairman and Chief Executive Kenneth Jacobs said in an interview.

Net income in the fourth quarter came in at $76.98 million, a 32% year-on-year drop and missing a forecast for $82.2 million, according to Refinitiv Eikon data, and down from $111.4 million a year earlier.

Lazard’s diluted adjusted net income per share for the fourth quarter fell to 91 cents, down 3% from 94 cents a year earlier but comfortably beating analysts’ average estimates for 82 cents.

Shares pared early gains to trade down 1.1% at $42.19 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday morning.

New York-based Lazard, whose business is split between financial advisory and asset management, said average assets under management at the end of the fourth quarter were $248 billion, up from $231 billion in the prior quarter.

Fellow investment banking advisory firm Evercore (EVR.N) on Wednesday also reported falling earnings.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis

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